Eco Driving

At the CAA, we recognize the environment is an important issue for our Members and have adopted an approach which balances personal mobility and sustainability.

AAA Green Car Guide

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) released a guide to the top green vehicles on the road in North America, from compact to pickup trucks.

Eco Driving

In the fall of 2013, CAA hosted an Eco-Driving Video Contest that offered young Canadian drivers a chance to learn how to conserve fuel by following CAA’s easy-to-use tips.

CAA gave out two awards – the most popular video as voted by the public, and most creative video as selected by CAA. Both winners created unique videos showcasing eco-driving tips that can save you money at the pumps and save the environment. 

Nadia, who won most popular video, submitted her favourite eco-driving tip: avoiding high speeds. Check out the video here (note: video is in French only).

Alison, who won most creative video, demonstrated that even the Muppets can be eco-drivers if they avoid high speeds on their road trip. Check out the video here. 

CAA’s balanced approach on eco-driving encourages preserving the environment while also maintaining personal mobility. We believe in creating policies and solutions that are practical, economically feasible, and whose costs are equal to or less than the environmental benefits they offer.

CAA’s balanced approach on eco-driving encourages preserving the environment while also maintaining personal mobility. We believe in creating policies and solutions that are practical, economically feasible, and whose costs are equal to or less than the environmental benefits they offer.

Better engineered vehicles and roads, and the personal driving habits of consumers, all have a role to play and CAA is here to support them. We believe in providing consumers with the tools to make the choices that make sense to them.

Cutting energy consumption is good for the pocket books as well as the environment. Here are a few simple eco-driving tips to help make road trips better for you and the environment:

    1. Avoid jackrabbit starts and hard braking.
      According to one study referenced by Natural Resources Canada, frequent “jackrabbit” starts and hard braking reduces travel time by only 4 per cent, but increases fuel consumption by 39 per cent. A lot of energy is used trying to get a vehicle up to cruising speed – energy which is lost when the vehicle is forced to slow down unnecessarily.
    2. Don’t idle.
      Try and turn off your engine if you are not in traffic and stopping for more than 60 seconds.
    3. Keep your tires properly inflated and service your vehicle regularly.
      Proper tire inflation reduces rolling resistance by optimizing road contact area, resulting in better traction and fuel efficiency.
    4. Remove excess weight such as roof racks, when not in use, and items from your trunk.
      Roof racks increase aerodynamic drag on your vehicle and increase fuel consumption. Try to remove your roof rack when it is not in use and, if you can, use your trunk to stow equipment. If you need to use your roof rack, try to arrange items in steps with lower items at the front. Vehicle weight is a major contributor to higher fuel consumption – for every 45 kilograms of extra weight you carry in your vehicle, fuel consumption can increase by 2 per cent.
    5. Reduce highway speed; use cruise control. Fuel consumption increases above 90 km/hr.
      As you increase speed, more power is needed to push the car through the air. Driving at lower speeds can greatly reduce fuel consumption. In fact, tests have shown that most cars use about 20 per cent less fuel when they are driven at 90 km/h instead of 110 km/h. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and will also save gas (but be careful in slippery conditions and consult your owner’s manual for proper instructions on its use).
    6. Combine your trips to save fuel and time- consider carpooling.
      When doing errands by automobile, try to combine all of your stops into one trip. That way most travelling will occur when the engine is warmed up and most efficient.
    7. Use a block heater in cold weather.
      During the colder months, automobile engines and their emission control systems take longer to warm up. Until an automobile warms up, its engine can burn up to 50 per cent more fuel, and pollutant emissions are uncontrolled. A block heater will warm the coolant in the engine and allow it to start warm and rise to an optimal operating temperature much faster. They are either electric (and must be plugged into an external outlet) or fuel‐powered (and use a small amount of fuel from the engine to heat it up like a small furnace). Try to use an automatic timer to turn on your block heater no more than two hours before you need to start your automobile.

Increasing Fuel Efficiency by Improving Automobile Technology

There are many currently available means of improving fuel efficiency in new vehicles. These include:

  • Downweighting;
  • Using high efficiency tires (to reduce rolling resistance);
  • Streamlining (to reduce wind resistance);
  • Choosing higher efficiency fuels (i.e., diesel);
  • Downsizing engines;
  • Choosing manual or advanced technology transmissions (to reduce drivetrain losses); and,
  • Increasing electrification (powering anything from accessories to the drivetrain).

Lighter vehicles require less energy to accelerate. This means that smaller, less powerful engines that consume less fuel can achieve the same acceleration. Also, there are several ways to reduce the weight of vehicles without reducing size, including:


Conventional steel in automobile parts can be replaced with high strength – low alloy materials without compromising vehicle safety or performance. In order to lessen the effect of rolling resistance, tires can be made with specialized tread and tire geometry. Some tire manufacturers offer high‐efficiency tires that perform as well as high performance tires, while lowering rolling resistance by 20 per cent.

Vehicle Shape

Changing the shape of your vehicle can greatly reduce wind resistance and, thus, fuel consumption. During the 1990s, automakers produced concept vehicles with 40 per cent less aerodynamic drag than conventional vehicles as part of a US government‐industry cooperative: Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles.


Choosing a diesel engine can increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency since the properties of diesel fuel allow it to be burned more efficiency inside an engine.

Engine Improvements

Smaller engines tend to operate closer to optimal efficiency levels during typical driving conditions. Over the last 20 years advancements in engine technology have led to significantly more powerful engines; using new engine technology can allow the downsizing of an engine without sacrificing power.


When driven properly, manual transmission vehicles are more fuel efficient than automatic transmission vehicles. By gearing up or down according to driving conditions, drivers are able to keep their engine running in the most efficient operating range. Vehicles with more gears (fivespeed as opposed to four‐speed), will almost always provide improved fuel economy. There are new transmission innovations that can reduce energy loss from either manual or automatic transmissions and consequently reduce fuel consumption.

Battery Power

In most conventional automobiles, there is a 12 volt battery sufficient only to power some accessories and the starter motor. This means that many of your vehicle’s accessory systems, including air conditioning (A/C) are powered by the crankshaft. This effectively steals power from the engine that would otherwise be directed to the drivetrain and wheels, thus causing the engine to burn more fuel. Vehicles with higher voltage systems are supported by more powerful batteries and can run the accessories independently so the crankshaft doesn’t have to, thus minimizing the power drain on the engine.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Hybrid electric vehicles are composed of an internal combustion engine, a large battery pack and one (or more) electric motors to deliver power to the driveshaft. While hybrid vehicles integrate both forms of power, it is possible in some instances for the electric motor to displace the internal combustion engine as primary power source.

Plug‐in hybrids use a higher capacity battery that allows them to run all‐electric drive at higher speeds and for extended periods of time. Energy can also be “topped up” with external electricity (say, from a household outlet).


Checklist for Purchasing a vehicle:

  • Do some research from home first.  Compare the fuel consumption of various makes and models.
  • Check out the EnerGuide label.
    Look for the EnerGuide label on all new cars. It shows city and highway fuel consumption ratings and an estimated annual fuel cost for that particular vehicle.
  • Choose a vehicle that fits your everyday needs in terms of both size and power.
    Keep in mind that larger vehicles are often heavier and consume more fuel. If you sometimes load your car with large items, consider renting or borrowing a trailer or larger vehicle for those occasions. If interior space is important, consider a minivan: few vehicles, including SUVs, have as much space or seating capacity. If keeping fuel consumption and emissions levels low is important to you, consider choosing a V6 instead of a V8 engine option; or a 4‐cylinder engine instead of a V6, where the option exists – remember that horsepower levels have doubled over the past two decades.


Most vehicle maintenance should be left to the professionals. However once a month, the following checks can be performed to help identify and/or prevent problems that can cost you fuel and money:

  • Look for signs of uneven wear of your tires or embedded objects that can cause air leaks. Measure tire pressure monthly, and be especially committed in winter when tires are cold. Regardless of the season, check tire pressure whenever there is a sharp change in temperature. The vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure for your car’s tires is specified on a plate or sticker attached to the edge of the driver’s door, the door post, the glove box or the fuel door. Note, the pressure marked on the tire itself is the maximum pressure and is not likely to be the same as the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. If you can’t find the plate, check the owner’s manual or consult your dealer.
  • Check around the car and under the engine for fluid leaks. If fluid is leaking, get the problem fixed by a professional.
  • Check fluid levels, including engine oil, the engine coolant level, transmission fluid and power steering fluid, according to the instructions in the owner’s manual, and top‐up as appropriate.
  • Check under the hood for cracked or split spark plug wires (generally only visible on older automobiles), cracked radiator hoses or loose clamps, and corrosion around the battery terminals. Have any faulty or damaged equipment repaired or replaced.
  • Check for problems with the brakes. On a straight, flat and traffic‐free stretch of road, rest your hands lightly on the steering wheel and apply the brakes gradually. If the vehicle drifts to one side, one of the brake linings may be worn more than the other, or the brakes may need adjustment. In either case, have the brakes inspected by a professional.
  • Use a similar test to check for problems with wheel alignment. On a straight, flat and traffic‐free stretch of road, rest your hands lightly on the steering wheel and drive at an even speed. If the vehicle pulls to one side, the wheels may be misaligned. Poorly aligned wheels will cause your tires to drag rather than roll unobstructed, scrubbing off your tread and making them wear out faster. This means increased rolling resistance, which will increase fuel consumption, so be sure to get your wheels aligned by a professional.

(Source: The AutoSmart Guide, Natural Resources Canada)